Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One Door Closes

This weekend I had to put my cat Oso to sleep. Oso was a magnificent blue-gray cat with big yellow eyes. Throughout his 14 years, many cats and dogs came into our house for temporary shelter, and Oso was always so calm and accepting of the new animals, who usually came to us sick and scared and confused. He knew his place in our house and in my heart, and never felt the need to push the newcomers around.

Over the past two years, I've had to put all three of my beloved senior pets to sleep. I adopted all of them when I was in my final years of college and just after graduation. They were my family as I grew up and started my career. All three of them moved with me across the country to Tennessee and Washington D.C. and Utah, and back to California. It was a wild adventure.

My memories of them are so intertwined with memories of my youth, it's difficult to separate them. Margaret started it all. She was this fuzzy, unkempt terrier sitting in the shelter, a week past her euthanasia date, with big sad eyes. She was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, soulmate kind of dog. I was her sun and her moon, and she slept in the curve of my back for almost 17 years. The day I had to put her to sleep was one of the hardest of my life. I miss her still.

Cody was next. Cody was an Australian shepard/lab mix that was really all goofy lab. He and I struggled a bit throughout his 14 years, but ours grew into a mature, mellow friendship that I miss terribly. He was my self-appointed protector and lifeguard. I could never go swimming with Cody around, whether it was ocean, lake, or river. He would get this furrowed look between his eyes as he watched me swim away and suddenly leap into the water and bug me until I held onto his collar and he'd pull me to the bank or beach, happy and proud of himself for keeping me safe.

Just this weekend a young man stopped outside my house and asked if Cody was around. Cody was like that. Friends and neighbors would just come by and take him for long walks or car rides. Sometimes I'd be driving home from work and would see him happily walking on the waterfront with a friend, or hanging his head out of somebody else's car. Whenever I went with Cody, complete strangers would say hi to him by name ask what I was doing with him! Cody was everybody's friend.

And now Oso is gone.

Not quite intentionally, I've been slowly filling the empty spaces with a new rescued menagerie: Sophia, a one-eyed poodle/Jack Russell mix; Papi, a crazy Chihuahua/terrier mix with this hilarious under bite that makes it look like he's smiling all the time; Sunny Peeps, a sweet-singing canary I "won" at a political auction; and two cats, BBK, a Vallejo native from the streets with one blue eye and one green eye, and Mr. Tennessee Mittens, a six-toed kitten rescued from a gutter on Tennessee Street after he'd been hit by a car (thanks to Jane for taking the time to investigate the bit of fluff in the street, and Bayside Veterinary Hospital for taking such great care of him!).

So while the door on my youth has closed with finality, I now move on into the next phase of my life with my new companions to make new memories. And I can still pull out and cherish my memories of Margaret, Cody, and Oso and our crazy, fun adventures. Maybe they haven't completely left me after all.